The Gender “digital divide”:World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2012

“If we educate a boy, we educate one person. If we
educate a girl, we educate a family and
a whole nation.” African proverb

Today is World Telecommunication and Information
Society Day 2012. The theme for 2012 is “Women
and Girls in ICT.”
Gender equality is a basic human right enshrined in the
U.N. Charter.  The United Nations
designates May 17 to remind the world each year of the benefits that the
Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICTs) can bring
to societies and economies worldwide.
Talking to female student teachers in Bushenyi on role of  ICT4Eudcation

May 17 also marks the anniversary of the creation of the International
Telecommunication Union, the United Nations’
specialized agency for information and communications technologies. Along with
other activities, the agency strives to improve access to ICTs to underserved
communities worldwide.Access to ICTs,
the United Nations says, empowers women and girls to take their rightful place
as equals in the world. 
“Despite
the obvious benefits, many girls never even consider a career  in ICTs.  There is a lack of awareness
among students, teachers and parents on what a career in ICT could offer.
 Attitudes can change when girls are invited into companies and government
agencies to meet  ICT professionals and
see what life is like on the job”.
 http://girlsinict.org/
For this reason, ITU members agreed to recognize
Girls in ICT Days on the 4th Thursday of every April in ITU Plenipotentiary
Resolution 70 (Guadalajara, 2010)
Information Communication Technology
(ICT) has the potential to transform social, economic, and political life
globally. ICT presents unique and timely opportunities for women
and girls. It promises better economic prospects, fuller political
participation, communication with the outside world, easy access to
information, and an enhanced ability to acquire education and skills and to
transcend social restrictions. ICT is especially important to poor women
because it can provide increased access to resources, the absence of which
defines poverty. Hence, ICTs are tools that facilitate access to a variety of
development resources.

However, the uneven
distribution of ICT within societies and across the globe is resulting in a
“digital divide” between those who have access to information resources and
those who do not. Women’s lower levels of literacy and education relative to
men as well as negative attitudes towards girls’ achievement in science
and mathematics, contribute to the gender dimension of the digital divide. In
addition, women across the world enjoy a lower degree of economic security than
men and face gender-related constraints on their time and mobility. Without
access to information technology, an understanding of its significance, and the
ability to use it for social and economic gain, women in the developing world
will be further marginalized from the mainstream of their communities, their
countries, and the world (Nancy Hafkin and Nancy Taggart 2003) [1].

According to the
MDGs established in 2000 at the United Nations Millennium Summit and signed by
189 heads of state around the world, a list of eight overarching goals for
developing countries to achieve by 2015 is outlined. Among this list, Goal 3a
is to ‘eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education,
preferably by 2005, and at all
levels by 2015’. Indicator 9, to
measure the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women, is the ratio
of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education.
Boys too need the ICT skills. I spoke to some at a youth  camp-2011
However, the
targets set by MDGs and other global foras have largely been missed on the African
continent. According to Peninah Mlama, Executive director of the Forum for African
Women Educationalists (FAWE), “A lot of girls are dropping out of school or
not
being sent at all because of the poverty of parents. Traditional
cultural attitudes are still
very strong, especially in rural areas. The
little money parents have to scrounge for
sending children to school is
seen as too big an investment to risk on the girl child”
 

The uneven
distribution of Information and communication Technologies (ICTs) within
societies and across the globe has resulted in a ‘DIGITAL DIVIDE’ between those
who have access to information resources and those who do not. Women’s low
levels of literacy and education relative to men as well as the negative
attitude towards girls achievement in science related fields contributes to the
gender dimension of the digital divide. Women still have a low degree of
economic security than men and face gender related constraints on their time
and mobility. They are therefore less likely to access, use and participate in
shaping the course of ICTs compared to their male counterparts
In Uganda more men than women access/make
use of ICTs because most ICT infrastructure is in the urban areas or townships,
whereas majority of the women/populations live in the rural areas. 
Given women and girls multiple roles
and heavy domestic responsibilities, their leisure hours are few and therefore
need tools that can effectively reduce the
“distance” between them as individuals and institutions thereby making sharing
of information and knowledge easier and more effective. ICTs come in handy.
 Referance
[1] Nancy Hafkin
and Nancy Taggart (2003), An Analytical Study on Gender, Information Technology
and Developing Countries, Office of Women in Development, USAID, Washington DC.

Trending our own Story: Uganda Speaks

I am priviledged to be part of a group of  young Ugandan bloggers, journalists and filmmakers, working under the collective
“Uganda Speaks”. We recently traveled to Northern Uganda to document stories of survivors of the LRA and will be releasing a video online looking at the
LRA and its impact from our own perspective to make sure that the voices of those that were affected by this war are heard.

Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb reports from northern Uganda about the process of our documeting these stories.

IF WE DO NOT SAVE MOTHERS AND CHILDREN, WE ARE PUTTING THE FUTURE GENERATION AT STAKE.

On 5th
March 2012, I joined a team of medical doctors and environmental specialists
from UNICEF Kampala for a trip to western Uganda. This was a mid-term review on
the progress made in health services provided for a two year project in the
areas of Prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), HIV/AIDS and
Malaria. We visited three districts of Bundibugyo, Kabarole and Kyegeggwa. UNICEF-Kampala
in partnership with Ministry of health and other partners like Text to Change
and Catholic Relief Services (CRS), is working tirelessly to achieve the 4th,
5thand 6th millennium development goals (MDGs) of:
Goal 4:
Reduce Child Mortality,
Goal 5:
Improve Maternal Health
Goal 6:
Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other
diseases”
The
major objective of this initiative is to increase public demand for Antenatal
care (ANC) and Post Natal care (PNC) services at health facilities among
mothers in rural Uganda.
It is
evident that in emergency, the biggest percentage of those who bear the burden
caused by war, conflict and disaster are women and children, yet they are the
key stakeholders in promoting good health and building stable and self-reliant
communities.  With only 2 years left to
2015, a year set by United Nations to achieve all the 8 MDGs, many organizations
are working tirelessly to meet this deadline. During our 3 day visits, we went
to a number of health centres which included; Burondo HCII, Ntandi HCII both in
Bundibugyo as well as Kigambo HCII in Kyegegwa.
Why Maternal health in Uganda?
According
to the 2010 Millennium Development Goals progress report for Uganda, maternal
health indicators for Uganda have generally remained poor in the last two
decades. Over the period of 1995-2000 maternal mortality stagnated about 505
deaths per 100,000 live births. The Uganda demographic and health survey of
2006 estimated Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) at 435 deaths per 100,000 live
births, making a total reduction of only 70 deaths per 100,000 live births in
half a decade. The 2007 ministry of health expenditure survey in Uganda clearly
indicates that the main causes of maternal morbidity and mortality in Uganda
have overtime been considered preventable and or treatable. These common causes
include but are not limited to abortion, haemorrhage, sepsis and obstructed
labour. When we visited Ntandi Health Centre III in Bundibugyo, we were
welcomed by this message;
BUNDIBUGYO
Needs more health centres; Bundibugugyo needs more well quipped maternity
wards”
A banner hanging at Ntandi Health Centre III in Bundibugyo

A
statement that was confirmed by the Chief Administrative Officer Mr. Okuraja David of
Bundibugyo when we later on visited and talked to the district leaders.

At
Ntandi, We met the only enrolled mid-wife Ms. Grace Agaba who was busy helping
carry out in an immunization exercise. When we spoke to her, the visibly tired
Grace emphasized the problem of the health centre being under staffed and sometimes
having drug stock outs. She also complained about the absence of
light/electricity at the centre that makes it complicated to help mothers who
deliver in the wee hours.

“This morning at about 5:00 am, I carried
out a natural delivery using the torch light of my mobile phone
said Grace
Grace
also cited the absence of registers for patient details at the centre, she said
that because of this, mothers are requested to carry exercise books to have
their details written, which she says is not a good option as many loose these
books hence making it difficult to track their health history. When asked by
Dr. Richard Oketch (HIV/AIDS specialist Treatment at UNICEF) about HIV Positive
mothers, Grace said that they test all mothers for HIV/AIDS during their first
visit to the centre and if found positive, they start administering the Antiretroviral
drugs (ARVs) 14 weeks during the Gestation period. They give them zidovudine (AZT) drug used to delay development of AIDS (acquired
immunodeficiency syndrome) in patients infected with HIV until
delivery and then Combivir which is used to treat HIV. For the new born babies
Niverapine syrup is administered within 72 hours of birth, she said.

Grace
expressed a lot of concern for the pigmy community made up of the Bawta in bundibugyo
district. She said that the biggest dilemma is that approximately 60-65% of the
Batwa are HIV positive yet they are very aggressive and difficult to reach out
to with better health services that prevent transmission. She was hopeful that
if they are mobilized through their King, the process will be easy. UNICEF
recommended specific outreach to this group of people through Village Health
Teams (VHTs) from their community.

Hope in Technology through Text to Change.
Will it help?

To realise the indicator of having mothers
come for all the 4 ANC visits, we need to have something that reminds these
mothers
”-Sr. Nyinakamunya Generose

With
such a statement, it is evident that although the mothers go to the Health
centre for Antenatal (ANC) and postnatal (PNC) services, they need to often be
reminded if they are to go for at least the required four visits during pregnancy.
It’s for this very reason that Netherlands National Committee for UNICEF in
partnership with UNICEF-Kampala and the Ministry of Health sought for a partnership
with Text to Change a mobile4dev organisation that improves access to
information in a cost effective way to reach out to several of these mothers through
the Simple Message Service (SMS). For my part, I was tasked with testing the
language and comprehension of some of the messages that have been develop and
this was for one reason; to make sure that they in the simplest language that
can be understood by an ordinary mother but still remain medically correct. I
had to test for the clear understanding and seek alternative options for
medical terms like Convulsion, postnatal, Transmission, premature, ITN voucher,
caesarean section etc.

Maureen Agena texting the language and Comprehension of the SMS messages at Ntandi HC III
Through
short messages, Text to Change intends to reach out to hundreds of mothers by
sending out two 2 to 3 messages weekly on topical issues like malaria,
Nutrition, HIV/AIDS, ANC and Postnatal. It will be backed up with radio programs for a bigger
outreach and greater impact to the communities.
Similar blog of maternal health
by Uganda Journalist Rosebell Kagumiire:

I am a visible child from Northern Uganda. Who are the “Invisible Children”?

Having grown up in Northern
Uganda, Lango sub region to be more specific and studied at St. Mary’s College
Aboke, a school from which Joseph Kony’s rebels abducted 139 girls in ordinary
level, the name Kony is not new to me.
For the 4 years that I spent in
that school (1999-2002), together with other students, I remember praying the
Rosary at the School Grotto on daily basis and in the process, reading out the
names of the 30 girl who had remained in captivity after Sr. Rachelle an
Italian Nun together with a Ugandan teacher John Bosco rescued only 109 of them.
An annual date (10th
Oct) was set aside and dedicated to prayers for all the captives. All we did
on that day, was pray for the girls to be realized from captivity. For all those
four years, I had never heard of an organisation called “Invisible children”A (Was founded later) But all I heard, were the stories from some of the girls and children who had
escaped from captivity. In 2002 alone, I could count the number of days I spent
at school as we kept on going back home because of the threats and rumours from the
villagers around (Abongodero and otwal areas) that the rebels wanted to abduct
more girls.
#Stopkony:
A joke or a wakeup call?
I had traveled to western
Uganda for field work on issues of Maternal health when I first read a tweet using
my mobile phones from @Natabaalo a journalist friend here in Uganda on Tuesday 06/03/2012
with the hash tag (#stopkony). For a moment, I treated it as a joke until I
read many more talking about ‘Uganda’ and ‘Kony’ as topics trending worldwide
on twitter. Being a social media enthusiast, I rushed to facebook to cross
check and find out if a similar discussion was going on.  I was shocked to find a video shared on my
wall by an old girl of St. Mary’s College Aboke (Bernadette Manisula
Nagita
) who works as a communications person with Invisible
Children here in Uganda. This was the message that accompanied the video that
has now gone Viral.

Trusting you will do more
than just watch….help spread the word…..
I watched the video and sent
her my feeback  So what exactly
am I supposed to do with this video? Share? Not me dear.
For the first 5 minutes I had
no idea what the video was about until I later on saw the old images of LRA and
attentively listened.
As the discussion grew on
twitter, I realised that the internet has indeed become part of everyday life
and has played an increasing role in the delivery of news about issues that
concern citizen. Today, a new form of internet journalism –Citizen Journalism
has taken root and many ordinary citizens have learnt how to argument, report
and fact-check videos like #Kony2012.
Just like @RosebellK another
Journalist in Peace & Conflict here in Uganda, I have problems with this video because it not only tarnishes
Ugandan’s image but also undermines the effort that different Governments and
peace lovers like ArchBishop Baptist Odama of Gulu put in, to have peace talks that could
bring this war to an end. It totally portrays the hopelessness of Ugandans to
help themselves out of this situation and the intervention of some Americans who
“care” so much about the plight of the children in Northern Uganda. I tend to
think that it is a one man show video. “Invisible children might be advocating
for a good Cause but used a very wrong Approach” like @jssozi put it.
I hardly doubt that the people
of Northern, Eastern and West Nile regions in Uganda, the most affected
by this war have any idea that a video talking about their plight has gone
viral on the internet. It’s 2012 and the people of Northern and eastern Uganda
are in the post conflict era and re-settling. Why doesn’t the video at least give a
brief  highlight of this current situation rather than threaten the entire globe with out-dated
information? Does “Invisible Children” have an idea what impression of Uganda
has been portrayed to a world that still believes Idi Amin is alive and still terrorising
us? What will happen to our tourism sector?  Below are some of the interesting
reactions;
  • James  Akena: (Reuters PhotoJournalist in Uganda from Gulu)
    reacting to BBC Qn:
What will
happen if Joseph Kony is not killed or captured by December 31st? My government
and its military commanders gave many deadlines for capturing or killing this
madman several times and they failed. Equally these young Americans trying out
to become famous out of sufering of my people will surely fail as well!!! James
Akena.
  • Marcus
    Wagenaar(From Netherlands but working in Uganda)
“To all who have watched the video KONY 2012 that
has made the rounds of the internet: Uganda is a very safe place (I live there)
and was voted top 1 tourist destination for 2012 by Lonely Planet. The Lords
Resistance Army (LRA) was defeated in 2006 and the
Nothern region of Uganda has been stable and safe ever since. (I’ve been
there twice in the last 12 months). And the most important thing: JOSEPH KONY
IS NOT IN UGANDA, I repeat, he is NOT in Uganda. Please don’t let internet
propaganda shape your opinion about a far away country you know nothing about.”
  • James
    Wire(Ugandan)
“InvisibleChildren is
probably paving way for some foreign interests that want 2 monitor Uganda ‘s
oil under the pretext of military aid.”

“The invisible Children effort 2 commercialise
the Kony atrocities is a disgrace to us in Uganda. They must be seeking
relevance. #KONY2012”

Invisible
Children either has to make another video that depicts the real truth and the
real issues or apologize to the people of Uganda and the VISIBLE CHILDREN affected
by war for such a misrepresentation. For now, our focus is on the nodding head disease.

Ladies’ Map up in Kampala

The Google Technology User group (GTUG) organised
a Google MapUp/Mapping party an event which saw a group of Tech enthusiastic young
women in Kampala get together to map special interest places in their world.

The event which was organised by a team at
GTUG started at 10:00 GMT +3 with an introductory presentation by Max Adoko, a
Google Map Maker Advocate at Google Kampala. According to Max, Google Map Maker
allows you to add and update geographic information for millions of users to
see in Google Maps and Google Earth.


Why Focus on Women?
An interview with Mr. Adoko revealed that
having ladies was on purpose to expand the variety of mappers in Uganda. “There
is a lot of potential that ladies can add onto our maps
” He added that Ladies too have
special interest places and it would be difficult to have a comprehensive map
if we do not have detail slike Saloons, Markets, Boutiques, Clinics, Beauty Spas
among other. A brief interview with Mr. Adoko below;


I talked to a few lady mappers and asked them
why they attended the ladies Map up event;
Sandra Komuhiimbo an Information and
Communications Assistant at Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET) said “UWONET is currently profiling women’s
Organisations across the country, I am here to pick up(more) skills to create a
map for the network members and allies”
Ruth Aine a Journalist and blogger said  “I am  a curious and adventurous person, I love to
create stuff, so, when I heard about adding salons and my favourite places to Google
maps, I said why not? And It’s pretty easy and interesting too. Love it”
Esther Akello said “I want to have my village and Teso region on
the map. So excited about the whole activity”
A cross section of ladies Mapping at GTUG in Kampala on 03/03/2012
Mr. Adoko said that, they hope  toorganise this
event on quarterly basis and to have more women involved in technology. He believes that it will help bridge the current gender digital divide
that exists in Uganda.
Richard Zulu said that a lady who will have
the biggest number of edits will recieve an invitation to attend the Africa
GEO summit which brings together all mappers around Africa to share their
experiences and discuss the way forward in regard to mapping. This year’s
summit is scheduled for August 25-26 in Nigeria, West Africa.   

Working to bridge the ‘Gender digital divide’ in Uganda

Women in Technology Uganda (WITU), held it’s very first meeting of
the year 2012 0n 17th Feb with the theme “Ugandan Women in Technology:
Opportunities and Challenges
” at Makerere
University in Kampala Uganda. Women in Technology is a forum that we founded with
a focus on finding real solutions to the long-standing problems of how to
attract, retain and advance more women in the IT industry.
The
uneven distribution of Information and communication Technologies (ICTs) within
societies and across the globe is resulting in a ‘DIGITAL DIVIDE’ between those
who have access to information resources and those who do not. Women’ low
levels of literacy and education relative to men as well as the negative
attitude towards girls achievement in science related fields contributes to the
gender dimension of the digital divide. Women
still have a low degree of economic security than men and face gender related
constraints on their time and mobility. They are therefore less likely to
access, use and participate in shaping the course of ICTs compared to their
male counterparts
The Status of
Women and ICTs in Uganda
In
Uganda, Women’s awareness and usage of ICTs is nearly three times less than
that of men (2006 ResearchICTAfrica ). An assessment of the Rural communication
and Development Fund(RCDF) from a gender perspective undertaken by women of
Uganda Network in 2007 revealed that the fact that women are key consumers in
the privately owned computer training centres had nothing to do with gender
targeting. Many of these females went for secretarial training or to learn
elementary computer skills like Microsoft office applications to enhance their
gender stereotyped roles of secretary.  Women
who were employed as trainers or lab attendants were the minority. As far as
ownership management and control of private ICT business centres, Women were
generally few. The study also revealed that although RCDF support to various
ICT projects had facilitated further spread of ICT facilities and services to
the less privileged areas and its communities, women have benefited less from
the projects as compared to their male counterparts. Without
access to information technology, an understanding of its significance and
ability to use it fo social and economic gain, Women are likely to be further
marginalized from the mainstream of their communities, their country and the
world (Nancy Hafkin and Nancy Taggart 2003).

Meet our speakers
of the Feb 2012 Meetup
We tackled the opportunities and challenges that women in technology face, how we can explore these and solve the challenges to increase the number of women technologists in Uganda. We had amazing young women who shared their experiences.  Barbara Birungi gave an overview of what WITU is and why it exists, she shared the vision, mission and purpose. She also welcomed all the members to the first meeting of the year. The sessions were chaired by Lynn Kirabo and Maureen Agena

Rosebell Kagumire a Multimedia Journalist and Human right
Activists works at Chanel 16 and runs a blog http://rosebellkagumire.com/
spoke about “Women and Media”. She shared her work experience at the daily Monitor with participants. Rosebell acknowledged that Technology and especially
social media has increased opportunities for citizen to speak out and for
journalists to share ideas and opinion beyond the newsroom.
She said that ordinary people without professional
Journalism training can now use tools of modern Technology and the global
distribution of internet to create, fact check and argument media. Rosebell
believes that tools like twitter are now changing the “Agenda Setting” function
of the media.  Follow her on twitter
@RosebellK
Eunice Namirembe a Program manager at  Text to Change and ICT4D specialist talked
about the “opportunities of Mobile Technology for women”. She said that it is
evident that there is a huge difference in terms of access, use, application and
control of mobile phones between men and women. Whereas, we all agree that ICTs
can enable both men and women to gain stronger voice in their communities and
that mobile phones can specifically offer women flexibility in time and space,
this is far from reality for many rural women here in Uganda. A big gender gap
exists in accessing communication services. More men than women access/make use
of ICTs because most ICT infrastructure is in the urban areas, where areas
majority of the women/rural populations live in the rural areas.
Given women’s multiple roles and
heavy domestic responsibilities, their leisure hours are few and therefore need
a tool that can effectively reduce the “distance”
between them as individuals and institutions thereby making sharing of
information and knowledge easier and more effective. The mobile phone comes in
handy. Follow
her on twitter @gnayeunie

Evelyn Namara an entrepreneur, programmer and AfNOGChix
trainer working with Solar sisters shared her experience from AfNOGChix on
“Training Women in Technology”. She said that AfNOGChix was inspired by
the desire to share technical challenges in setting up, building and running IP
networks on the African continent. As a result, some of the pioneer Network
Operators came together and established a network of key operators on the
continent. The Africa
Network Operators Group (AfNOG) is a forum for the exchange of technical
information, and aims to promote discussion of implementation issues that
require community cooperation. The reason as to why a lot of focus was on women
was because Few women applied for the main AfNOG events;Women are a bit intimidated learning with male
students;
Women were hesistant to asked questions
and finally Women usually relied on Male participants to finish up assignments. AFNOG therefore
solves all these issues and bridges the gap by having women trained by women. Follow her on twitter @enamara

Esther Patricia Akello an employee of Bank of Uganda who is
so passionate about Information Security shared with us “what it means to work
in a male dominated profession”. Esther said that, there are few women who
study technology related courses and practice what they studied professionally.
She attributed all this to the cultural socialization of women and the notion
that women are made to believe that they cannot think or work technically. At
the meeting, Esther encouraged young ladies who are passionate about technology
to own up and stop complaining about the few numbers but rather make a
difference and excel in their IT related professions. Follow her on twitter @ekisesta

Last but not least
was the Google ambassador and Appscircus 2012 Kampala winner Christine Ampire. As
a second year software engineering student, Christine joined the AppsCircus
competition and developed a mobile application called MafutaGo that saw her win
in Kampala. Together with her team, she attended the recent Mobile World Congress in in
Barcelona and they won the RingMater ward. http://thenextweb.com/mwc/2012/02/27/the-mobile-premier-awards-announce-winners-at-mwc/
She said that the secret to all this was the spirit of teamwork and commitment
regardless of your gender. She said that young girls have to get rid of fear if
they are to excel in Technology. Follow her on twitter @axtine831

I
strongly believe that women’s participation in the creation of technology will
strengthen the workforce, raise the standard of living for many women, and help
to assure that technology addresses women’s needs and expands the possibilities
for their lives.
The
sponsors; UGOuganda, PC Techmagazine and Makerere University (Faculty of CIT)
Photos by: Javie Ssozi

Maureen Agena is one of the 12 Young Social Activists to watch out for in 2012

Compiling a list of 12 Young social activists to watch out for in 2012 was an herculean task. As much as possible, we wanted a list that would demonstrate reach, focus on young people who have had a track record of contributing to development in their societies and who are poised to make much more contributions in the coming year. We dug deep into existing networks on the continent, read through the profile of several young men and women and sough recommendation from adult allies who have worked with amazing young people on the continent. From an initial list of 31, we pruned down and settled on the final 12, their records and achievements speak for them.
Full list here: http://youthhubafrica.org/2012/02/27/12-young-social-activists-to-watch-out-for-in-2012/

Can ICTs contribute enormously in the eradication of poverty in Uganda if considered major physical infrastructure?

ICTs cover a wide range of tools
and technologies that can be used to foster development. They are drivers for change and their impact in the economic, social,
cultural, political and individual spheres of life is widely accepted and
recognised world over. Information
and communication technology such as computers, mobile phones, projectors,
digital cameras, music players, and many others have found applications in
every conceivable area where people work and interact including businesses,
educational institutes, and research organizations among others.
And though much talked about, it
is hardly used in some of the most important sector in Uganda. Such sectors
include the Agricultural sector, a sector that dorminates Uganda’s economy and
accounts for 41.6%
of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 85% of the export earnings and 80% of
employment opportunities.
The Ugandan Government is
increasingly adopting the internet for activities that have broader social
implications for grassroots communities. Efforts include laying a fibre-optic
backbone infrastructure; e-governance infrastructure in 27 ministries as well
as a universal fund as part of the Rural Communications Development fund
(RCDF).
A national ICT policy framework
was set up in 2002 to ensure the optimum utilization of information to foster
social economic development. The policy focuses on three areas: Information as a resource for development,Mechanisms for accessing informationand ICT as an industry. The policy
recognises that the three areas are not mutually exclusive.
While several policies and
legislations like “Uganda Access to information Act (2005)”,“Telecommunications
sector policy (1996)” and “The communications bill (2007)”have been put in
place, gaps exist when considering access to information broadly. For example,
the Rural Communications Development fund (RCDF) is not funding broadband
access and it has largely offered subsides for the establishment of services at
district headquarters which are mostly urban or semi-urban ignoring the needs
of the rural and underserved population who are its primary constituency.
Since the inception of the
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) ministry in 2006, Uganda has up
to date had three ministers: Dr. Ham Mulira, Mr. Aggrey Awori and now Dr.
Ruhakana Rugunda. However, even with an entire ministry in place, there is lot
more to be done in enabling access, use and application of ICTs to the rural
majority.
Photo: Khatukhira at 2011 Agriculture Fair in 2011
There is a great need to building
the capacity of people to enable their use of internet and basic ICTs such as
mobile phones whose benefits are amplified by the fact that the spread of
mobile technology in many rural areas has occurred much faster than with other
information & communication technologies (ICTs).
There is also a need develop
local content in local languages and applications in high utility value for the
community. Areas to look into include; health, education, market information,
agriculture and local administration.
The ministry in partnership with
stakeholders needs to device sustainable plans for RCDF grantees and align some
of its programs to the government‘s poverty reduction program. And finally to
enact cyber laws to curb malpractices and to increase confidence in electronic
transactions

Despite
these benefits and opportunities presented by ICTs in the eradication of
poverty, challenges like high costs of, limited network coverage and limited
usage capacity still exist.
The chances of success and sustainability of rural ICT funds like Rural
Communications Development Fund(RCDF) by Uganda Communications Commission are
greater when they do not duplicate services provided by existing information
sources such as the kiosks, telecentres and digital doorways among others.

mhealth: Mobile Phones to expand demand for, and use of ANC/PMTCT services in rural Uganda

Any development agenda in Uganda must look beyond the city
and for a simple reason, over 80% of the total population lives in rural areas.

Almost 70% of the world’s mobile phone
subscribers are in the developing world. As an affordable and accessible means
of communication, both men and women are realizing the potential of this
technology to create economic opportunities and strengthen social networks in
rural areas. The mobile phone is no longer just a communication tool but one
that`s capable of providing additional integrated functions.
Today, mobile telephony is being
used to provide information on health, Agriculture, Education and
entrepreneurship to rural communities through Short Message Service (SMS) and
multi-media supported systems in many parts of Uganda and Africa at large. This
has been made possible through public, private and NGO sector initiatives.
According to the 2010 MDG
progress report for Uganda, maternal health indicators for Uganda have
generally remained poor in the last two decades. Over the period of 1995-2000
maternal mortality stagnated about 505 deaths per 100,000 live births. The
Uganda demographic and health survey of 2006 estimated Maternal Mortality Ratio
(MMR) at 435 deaths per 100,000 live births, making a total reduction of only
70 deaths per 100,000 live births in half a decade.
The 2007 ministry of health
expenditure survey in Uganda clearly indicates that the main causes of maternal
morbidity and mortality in Uganda have overtime been considered preventable and
or treatable. These common causes include but are not limited to; abortion,
haemorrhage, sepsis and obstructed labour.
As a result of this, The
Netherlands National committee for UNICEF in partnership with UNICEF Kampala, the Ministry of Health, Text to Change,
The Association of Volunteers in
International Service (AVSI), and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) are
implementing an intervention to increase
ANC and PMTCT attendance by educating communities about Antenatal care (ANC) /Prevention
of mother to child Transmission(PMTCT) services and HIV/AIDS prevention in
western and Northern Uganda.  
The project will use available
technology, mainly the mobile phones to educate and mobilize mothers, families
and community members to demand for ANC and PMTCT services. Through the short
Message service (SMS), mothers will be reminded about ANC appointments, PMTCT
services and their importance as well as provide information about HIV/AID and
Malaria prevention.
Mobile telephony is the most
preferred technology for this health intervention because it effectively
reduces the “distance” between individuals and institutions making sharing of
information and knowledge easier and more effective. The benefits of mobile
phones are amplified by the fact that the spread of mobile technology in some
rural areas has occurred much faster than with other information & communication
technologies (ICTs). In a country like Uganda, mobile technology has quickly
become much more cost effective for telecommunication provision.
Despite these benefits of the
mobile phone, challenges like high costs of handsets, limited network coverage
and limited usage capacity still exist but these are being solved by the
potential of new models of phones that combine text, audio and video to be used
in a more systematic manner that enables sharing of user generated multimedia
content.

The chances of success and sustainability of
rural health services that are based on mobile telephony are greater when they
do not duplicate services provided by existing information sources such as the
kiosks, telecentres , digital doorways and information centres.

Calling all Women Tech Bloggers

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Register your blog as a tech blog with BlogHer. How do I add my blog to the Blog Directory? Are there any rules about adding blogs?

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Cross posted from: http://www.blogher.com/calling-all-women-tech-bloggers